Nicole is a trainee solicitor at CMS Cameron McKenna Nabarro Olswang. She studied law at Cardiff University.
- Tell us a bit about your route into CMS?
My first experience of CMS was through their bursary competition, when I was in sixth form. As I made it through to the final round of the competition, I was able to embark on two days of work experience, at their London office. I believe that this experience was hugely beneficial to my application for a vacation scheme with CMS, as I had a true sense of the culture of the firm and could draw upon actual experience when explaining why I wanted to work at CMS. I was successful in my application for the vacation scheme, which I attended during the summer of my second year at university, following which I was offered a training contract.
- What do you believe made you stand out from the crowd?
I believe that my prior direct experience with CMS helped me to stand out. Being able to talk about real-life experiences was a huge advantage as it undoubtedly comes across as more genuine and well-reasoned than anecdotes or knowledge recited from websites and recruitment brochures. I would add that any relevant experience can be used for the same purpose. I was fortunate to have an opportunity to engage with CMS specifically, but having any practical and applicable examples will help (be it with other firms, non-legal jobs etc.).
- What is your number one tip for training contract applicants?
As hard as it may seem, don’t allow yourself to get disheartened by rejections because they will happen – keep persevering as it is worth it in the end. Always try and get feedback from unsuccessful applications if possible, and use that to improve future ones rather than take it to heart. Remember that these firms are trying to distinguish between thousands of applicants with similar credentials to you so sometimes it is the luck of the draw.
- What has been the highlight of your training contact so far?
I have just finished my first seat in Real Estate – Transactional. I would say my highlight there was seeing my first matter through, all the way from inception to completion. The amount of responsibility granted to trainees is great in respect of learning and developing.
- How does strong commercial awareness help you in your role?
It helps in many ways, ranging from being able to join in informal conversations with colleagues around the office, to being aware of the climate that your clients are working in, and adapting where appropriate. As an example, when Carillion hit the headlines, there was a lot of discussion and being able to have a well-grounded understanding means you can contribute to conversations (be it with clients or other lawyers).
- What’s the most challenging aspect of your role?
It is sometimes difficult to balance the competing interests of the people you are working for. Although you primarily assist with your supervisor’s work stream, there are often general capacity emails sent to trainees, when other people need work doing. It takes a while to learn which tasks are urgent and require priority, compared to tasks which can wait.
Wild Card Question – Unorthodox questions that candidates have been asked in real interviews
- What fictional character best describes you?
This is a tough one! I think that George (Georgina) from the Fantastic Five series by Enid Blyton is certainly a character I used to identify with when I was younger. Personality wise, I relate to her in that she is brave, strong-willed and extremely active. I have also always been a bit of a tomboy, as George is. Although, possibly the way in which I am most like her, is that I too absolutely adore dogs and share her stance that if my dog doesn’t like you, then we probably won’t get along either!